Next Article in Journal
Muscle Fibre Architecture of Thoracic and Lumbar Longissimus Dorsi Muscle in the Horse
Next Article in Special Issue
Dog Walking and the Social Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Loneliness in Older Adults
Previous Article in Journal
Data on before and after the Traceability System of Veterinary Antimicrobial Prescriptions in Small Animals at the University Veterinary Teaching Hospital of Naples
Previous Article in Special Issue
Attachment to Pets Moderates Transitions in Latent Patterns of Mental Health Following the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Results of a Survey of U.S. Adults
 
 
Commentary

A Commentary about Lessons Learned: Transitioning a Therapy Dog Program Online during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A5, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Clive Phillips and Aubrey H. Fine
Animals 2021, 11(3), 914; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030914
Received: 22 February 2021 / Revised: 17 March 2021 / Accepted: 20 March 2021 / Published: 23 March 2021
The purpose of this commentary is to highlight the lessons our team learned through transitioning a university campus’ therapy dog program from being delivered in-person to a novel online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. By connecting therapy dog teams virtually with program participants, we aimed for participants to continue to experience feelings of love, comfort and support as occurred in in-person programming, and gain knowledge about the best evidence surrounding mental health care during a pandemic. Through a combined process-outcome evaluation and subsequent needs assessment of the online program, and reflecting on our collective experiences, we learned several lessons regarding program personnel needs, therapy dog handler training and support requirements, and online programming prerequisites. These learning experiences continue to inform our current delivery of the program online and are applicable to other programs considering the same.
In 2015, the University of Saskatchewan PAWS Your Stress Therapy Dog program partnered with St. John Ambulance for therapy dog teams to visit our campus and offer attendees love, comfort and support. We recognized at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that students, staff and faculty may require mental health support, particularly with the challenges of isolation and loneliness. In response, our team transitioned from an in-person to a novel online format at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We designed online content for participants to (1) connect with therapy dogs and experience feelings of love, comfort and support as occurred in in-person programming, and (2) learn about pandemic-specific, evidence-informed mental health knowledge. Our unique approach highlighted what dogs can teach humans about health through their own care and daily activities. From April to June 2020, we developed a website, created 28 Facebook livestreams and 60 pre-recorded videos which featured therapy dogs and handlers, and cross-promoted on various social media platforms. Over three months, first a combined process-outcome evaluation helped us determine whether our activities contributed to the program’s goals. A subsequent needs assessment allowed us to elicit participant preferences for the program moving forward. This commentary reflects on these findings and our teams’ collective experiences to share our key lessons learned related to program personnel needs, therapy dog handler training and support requirements, and online programming prerequisites. This combined understanding is informing our current activities with the virtual program and should be of interest to other therapy dog programs transitioning online. View Full-Text
Keywords: virtual program; mental health; evaluation; social media; social support; isolation virtual program; mental health; evaluation; social media; social support; isolation
MDPI and ACS Style

Dell, C.; Williamson, L.; McKenzie, H.; Carey, B.; Cruz, M.; Gibson, M.; Pavelich, A. A Commentary about Lessons Learned: Transitioning a Therapy Dog Program Online during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Animals 2021, 11, 914. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030914

AMA Style

Dell C, Williamson L, McKenzie H, Carey B, Cruz M, Gibson M, Pavelich A. A Commentary about Lessons Learned: Transitioning a Therapy Dog Program Online during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Animals. 2021; 11(3):914. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030914

Chicago/Turabian Style

Dell, Colleen, Linzi Williamson, Holly McKenzie, Ben Carey, Maria Cruz, Maryellen Gibson, and Alexandria Pavelich. 2021. "A Commentary about Lessons Learned: Transitioning a Therapy Dog Program Online during the COVID-19 Pandemic" Animals 11, no. 3: 914. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030914

Find Other Styles
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

1
Back to TopTop